Today was a big day for Chester, the false killer whale that was rescued as a stranded animal in distress from Chesterman beach in Tofino almost a year ago.
This morning, Chester was introduced to his new habitat in the Wild Coast at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. The move was seamless under the careful guidance of the marine mammal trainers and staff led by marine mammal manager Brian Sheenan and head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena.
“The move went exactly as planned thanks to Brian and his incredible team,” said Dr. Haulena. “Over the next few days, based on how he acclimates to his new habitat, we will slowly be introducing him to Helen. This socialization is an import next step in Chester’s development. ”
Chester is responding well to his new habitat – he is already exploring and displaying healthy behaviours. He will continue to be closely monitored around the clock for the next several weeks. Limited access to the Wild Coast habitat will be available to so that Chester may focus on his new surroundings.
In January, Fisheries and Oceans Canada convened a scientific panel, comprising marine mammal experts from Canada and the United States, which has determined that the animal would not survive if released into the wild; Fisheries and Oceans Canada asked Vancouver Aquarium to continue providing Chester with the long-term care he requires.
The next step in Chester’s long-term needs included relocating him to the Wild Coast habitat. Once he is acclimated to his new habitat, he will begin to socialize with other marine mammals, starting with an introduction to Helen, a rescued Pacific white-sided dolphin, under the care and guidance of head veterinarian Dr. Haulena and his team.
Though his chance of survival was initially estimated at just 10 per cent, Chester responded well to treatment. His remarkable rehabilitation has provided invaluable learning opportunities for veterinarians, scientists and students around the world as limited information is available about false killer whales, particularly in Canada. Chester is contributing to a greater body of knowledge by participating in valuable research, such as vocalization and echolocation studies by Vancouver Aquarium research associate Kathy Heise, and assessment of his lung function via respirometry by graduate student Marina Piscitelli.